Financial Resource Center


Don't Let a Windfall Be Your Downfall

by Susan Tiffany, CCUFC / August 7th, 2020

What would you do if you won the lottery? Daydreams of winning are as close as most of us are likely to get.

Actually, the best way to prepare for eventually winning the big jackpot is to do a better job today managing what you have. The people at your credit union can help you with that.

If you had a pile of money, perhaps your priorities would be to:

  • Protect it, and protect yourself from those looking to cash in on your good fortune.
  • Make it grow with sensible decisions about investing.
  • Help family and friends; help others in need.
  • Enjoy it, but spend thoughtfully so the money doesn’t run out.

Those are all good things to do with the money you already have.

Defend against windfall scams

Scammers have found a way to make money from our dreams of winning the lottery and similar prizes. You might receive notice that you’ve won a big prize in a sweepstakes or lottery—perhaps from overseas—along with a check or money order as an “advance” on your winnings. You get tricked into sending back your own real money but the check you received turns out to be bogus.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about check scams, lottery-based and otherwise:

  • It’s usually impossible to tell if a check or money order is good by looking at it. Even a valid account number is not enough to verify an item; a telephone number printed on the check or money order might be the scammer’s.
  • You can withdraw funds even while a check is still being processed. Processing time can vary, so waiting a certain number of days before withdrawing the money is no guarantee the check won’t come back unpaid.
  • You only find out there’s a problem with the check when the institution it goes back to for payment notifies your credit union or other financial institution where you made the deposit.
  • You will be responsible for any funds you already spent from the “prize” if it’s returned.

The bottom line: No one who presents you with a legitimate check or prize winnings will ever ask you to send money in return.

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